Ayahuasca, Succubi, and Internet Porn

A common theme linking together many different traditions of spiritual development is the concept of sexual abstinence. From the solemn ashrams of the meditative East to the psychedelic jungle fever of the Amazon, the spiritual seeker is continuously reminded to keep his or her pants on.

The only times in my life when I have made a concerted effort to avoid all sexual activity—including masturbation—was for a 10 day Vipassana meditation retreat as well as for a couple of Ayahuasca medicine retreats, the most recent of which was a month long stay at a Shipibo healing centre in Peru. The latter event suggested that I abstain for at least a week before the retreat and for at least a week afterwards. Aside from the occasional flood of sexual imagery that would invade my consciousness during a ceremony (something I’ve also experienced with meditation), I was almost completely successful. However, the night after I had left the centre I was staying in a dormitory room at a hostel in the jungle city of Iquitos when I was awoken in the middle of the night by the force of my own orgasm. I laid there, damp and uncomfortable, wondering whether this unconsciously-willed ejaculation counted as a failure to abide by the time honoured guidelines of the Ayahuasca tradition.

The logic, as I understand it, is that the presence of sexual activity could create turbulence in one’s energy levels that may hinder the plant spirit’s ability to work effectively. Another more odd yet seemingly common understanding is that the spirit of Ayahuasca possesses a trait of jealousy and to engage in sexual conduct while working with the medicine could be perceived as a sign of disrespect by the plant spirits. In eastern traditions, the preservation of one’s sexual “chi” energy is thought to enable a greater sense of vitality which would in turn lead to improvements is all facets of life.

As I perused the online world for insight into my particular circumstance, I came across a certain thread of information that grabbed my attention. It came from a post on the forum section for Daniel Pinchbeck’s book Breaking Open the Head (the book that had actually introduced me to the world of Ayahuasca healing nearly a decade ago). The post (by a user named Oahspe) explained that nocturnal emissions or “wet dreams” had been a common preoccupation for ascetic men for centuries as recorded in some of the early manuscripts of Christianity. The post goes on to explore the idea of the succubus, a sexual psychic vampire that inhabits the astral realm and preys on it’s victims as they pass from waking consciousness into the dream world. This concept immediately resonated with me as I can specifically remember experiencing the well-known phenomenon of sleep paralysis that very night as I fell asleep; a threatening presence stood directly beside my bed as I laid unable to move in a state of panic. I was able to awaken myself and properly fall asleep shortly afterwards. Ordinarily I would probably have shrugged off such a mystical concept but having just finished a month long Ayahuasca retreat where talk of spirit entities was commonplace I felt compelled to give the idea a fair consideration. Was I in fact the victim of a sexual attack by some sort of demon inhabiting another realm of existence? Another event that took place only a few days later would lead me to expand on this disconcerting and potentially delusional thought experiment.

A few days after I’d left the city of Iquitos I found myself in the scenic town of Huaraz, amongst the snow-capped mountains of the Cordillera Blanca. I booked a bed in a cozy backpackers hostel and, in fact, that is where I am right now as I write these words. I am now going to make an confession. Last night, as I took advantage of the high speed Internet provided by the hostel, my carnal instincts got the better of me and, once again, I broke my sexual abstinence. Of course, this time was a bit more shameful as I was totally conscious of my actions. So for the second time in under a week, I had succumbed to the succubus.

I spent almost the entirety of this morning high on coffee (another luxury I had been denying myself for the previous month) and looking into the connection of spiritual development and sexual abstinence, and my own struggle to come to terms with that connection. During my search, I came across the ostensibly named “No Fap” internet movement that seemed to be growing quite rapidly. Basically, these so-called “fapstronauts” are a grassroots movement of guys that are supporting each other in the elimination of high speed Internet porn from their lives. According to a study done at the University of Montreal, pretty much all guys watch or have watched porn. One can imagine the medieval succubus having manifested itself through modern information technology to drain mankind of his vital energy. The candid YouTube and Reddit reports of successful fapstronauts are overwhelmingly positive, expressing reduced social anxiety and depression, and improved concentration as well as improved sexual interaction with an actual mate.

Gary Wilson, perhaps the most prominent researcher on the effects of Internet porn, points out in his TED talk the alarmingly similar brain activity between one who is continuously searching for more exciting and novel types of pornography and the behaviour of a drug addict. Our tendency to binge (as developed by untold millennia of scarcity) creates surges of dopamine that eventually lead to the erosion of will power, or in other words, addiction. This can be especially harmful to adolescents who exhibit a greater tendency towards neuroplasticity. He concludes his talk by commending the fapstronauts for providing us with the first documented example of what a removal of Internet porn from one’s life can provide.

Of course, it is important not to condemn sexual expression and experimentation. I have always felt that since sexual energy is the lifeforce of the universe, the repression thereof can only lead to an obsession with death, the expression of which I believe can be found the continuous state of war in which much of our world is involved. However, it seems to me that most modern day pornography is a desecration of the sexual act, one arising out of a deeply rooted collective neurosis rather than a celebration of beauty.

Personally, amongst mixed messages of sexual self-discipline and free love ethics, I have grown to believe that control of one’s sexual behaviour is an essential part—perhaps the most essential part—of living a productive and happy life. Obviously, I am still very much in the process of trying to realize that control.

Sources:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/sex/6709646/All-men-watch-porn-scientists-find.html
http://www.yourbrainonporn.com/garys-tedx-talk-great-porn-experiment
http://www.breakingopenthehead.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4664
http://www.nofap.org

photo found via google images @ http://villains.wikia.com/wiki/Succubus_(folklore)

2 Comments

  1. check out OM, orgasmic meditation, will take you to altogether new places. wonderful explorations and journeys you are doing!!

  2. Go with self-control and the redirection of sexual energy to hobbies. Like the “fapstronauts”, we need to maintain, in practice, why we are more advanced than the animals with their primitive brains that might leave them clueless about what else to do with sexual urges, but masturbate. Sexuality was made for the generation of children, because that’s what sperm and eggs and what not are meant for, though the body drops either, respectively, at times. It’s only natural for beings with higher intelligence to use sexuality for a higher purpose and not create sophisms for an excuse to lose control, like in tantric sects. Besides, I read about reverse kundalini (I don’t have any interest in eastern practices, except to know what is not being told by Eastern religious practitioners) and that the latter drains you of energy.

    I’ll have to check out that Gary Wilson. Thanks!

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